Illegal is to law as ______ is to regulation?

Laws are created legislative bodies, but regulations are created by organizations. It would be wrong to say

It is illegal for servicemen enlisted in the US Army to have mohawks.

Because there is no law on hair dress. But there is a regulation.

  • "unallowed" would fit this sentence. To respect your construction, you could use irregular, but it's not the opposite of regulated, the usual term would be "non-regular"
    – P. O.
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 14:51
  • 1
    irregular...? ;) Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 14:51
  • 1
    Non-compliant ... Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 16:39
  • 1
    Look at this article ,mentioning "non-regulation" haircuts npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/04/11/301509842/…
    – P. O.
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 17:03
  • In the U.S., bills are passed by the U.S. Congress (the legislative branch) and signed into law by the President (the executive branch), Executive-branch agencies then establish regulations as the means to implementing the laws. They do this through a rule-making process. If one accepts this definition of regulation, one cannot answer the first question simply by looking up words in dictionaries. In the U.S., the correct answer to the first question under these conditions is non-compliant, plain and simple. Commented Sep 17, 2016 at 4:14

6 Answers 6


A couple of words that are “one notch down from” illegal are forbidden and prohibited:


  Macmillan Dictionary:

      not allowed according to a rule, law, or custom


      not permitted or allowed

  Oxford Dictionaries:

      Not allowed; banned.

prohibited is the past participle of prohibit, which is defined as:


      to forbid by authority <Parking is prohibited.>

  Cambridge English Dictionary:

      to officially forbid something:
      The law prohibits smoking in restaurants.

You might also say something like

Mohawks are banned in the US Army.

but banned wouldn’t make sense in your example sentence.


Regulatory agencies in the U.S., e.g., Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develop regulations to implement laws. When parties subject to these regulations violate them, they are said to be out of compliance or non-compliant. In such cases, the regulator may issue Notices of Violation, which could carry civil penalties, depending on factors such as severity, adverse impact, willfulness, and repetitive nature of the violation. So with regard to your first example, the correct word is non-compliant:

Illegal is to law as non-compliant is to regulation.

You second example is different, because the Army is not a regulator in the sense that OSHA, NRC, and EPA are. That is not to say, however, that the Army can't make rules or establish requirements applicable to those in the Army; so one soldier could say to a subordinate, "That's against [Army] regulations". So, as to your second example, one could write:

"It is against (Army) regulations for servicemen enlisted in the US Army to have mohawks."

Or one soldier could say to another soldier sporting a mohawk:

"That's a non-regulation haircut."

Several commenters have mentioned non-regulation.

  • Non-compliant is great, and it's what I see the Office for Civil Rights using (in relation to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act regulations). For variety one can also say out of compliance. Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 4:54
  • @aparente001 Greetings! Yes, I mentioned "out of compliance" in my answer. It's not one word though. "Non-compliance" also applies in state and local government and in areas involving compliance with codes, e.g., fire and life safety codes, electrical codes, building codes. Documentary standards differ from regulations in that one uses "conformance" rather than "compliance" and "non-conformity" rather than "non-compliance". Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 5:48
  • It's worth noting that while ‘illegal’ can stand alone, ‘non-compliant’ needs some context to indicate what it fails to comply with.
    – gidds
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 18:01

Your example complicates matters. The military can enforce its own regulations and punish violators. So there really isn't any distinction for those subject to the UCMJ. The UMCJ is law, but it delegates authority to commanders to enforce regulations. Generally, you are deemed in violation of regulations.


The Standard Organization and Regulations of the U.S. Navy (SORM), OPNAVINST 3120.32, is applicable to all members of the U.S. Navy. Its purpose is to issue regulations and guidance governing the conduct of all members of the U.S. Navy. The regulations included in the manual are not intended to contradict or supersede any provision of Navy Regulations.

As an MA, you should know and understand the contents of the SORM as it provides guidance in performing the duties of the MA, defines U.S. Navy and unit organization, and outlines regulations that you may be responsible for enforcing. This chapter only discusses the regulations. The material in the SORM that is printed in italicized type is regulatory and applies to each member of the U.S. Navy. Violation of any provision of these regulations is punishable under the UCMJ. The material printed in plain type in the SORM is for the guidance of commanders, COs, and officers in charge (OICs).

emphasis mine. http://www.tpub.com/maa/6.htm

Many regulations have criminal provisions. Many regs are written after congress passes an act and authorizes an agency to write the rules. So illegal is not necessarily a right or wrong term to use pertaining to regulatory misdeeds.


Illegal is to law as irregular is to regulation.

Cambridge Dictionary:

irregular adjective (RULE)

formal (of behaviour or actions) not according to usual rules or what is expected:

Releasing the goods without an invoice is most irregular.

regulation noun

an official rule or the act of controlling something: safety/health/traffic/fire/security regulations.

  • 3
    I would say irregular is more often used to mean "against norms or expectations", not counter to actual regulations. Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 14:54
  • 1
    No, it does not fit the example. It is irregular for service men to have mohawks, could be interpreted as "it not very usual". Irregular has lost a bit of its force. The usual term, in use now, is more "non-regulatory"
    – P. O.
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 14:54
  • 2
    @P.O. That's not what non-regulatory means. Something is regulatory if it makes regulations or regulates something. Something is non-regulatory if it does not. Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 14:58

I don't think there is a word. I would say against regulations in your example sentence. The fact that this is a common collocation seems to indicate to me that there is indeed no single word.

  • The term non-regulation or non-regulatory are used. See hits for google.ca/…
    – P. O.
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 15:10
  • 1
    Sorry, I disagree. Non-regulatory refers to bodies/authorities, as per Peter Shor's comment below. I do accept non-regulation, which would be the same in meaning as against regulations. Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 15:24

The correct combination would be Regulatory non-compliance, which is a legally-binding term. Note: assumes US government federal agency created said regulation (s). If you are located in another country, this may not apply. You need to identify which is the highest authority in your country.

Recall, regulations are often legally-binding rules created by entities with lawful authority in the domain. In other words, if you are in a specific domain, you are operating at the pleasure of the top entity with lawful authority in such domain and are therefore regulated by that entity and its regulations. Failure to do so can result in a wide range of penalties (see below) that vary in severity. For example, the Common Rule, HIPAA, HITECH HIPAA, privacy rule, and other legally-binding regulations are enacted or published by the HHS (US only)

When you say "regulatory non-compliance", you are including penalties or punishments such as letters of non-compliance, fines, suspensions, criminal charges, blacklisting, and imprisonment.

Illegal is to law as regulatory non-compliance is to regulation.

  • Probably the most informative answer. But note that illegal is an adjective. Is 'regulatory non-compliant' idiomatic? Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 13:39
  • 1
    ... but it isn't legally binding. Legally recognized, maybe. It is the regulation's clauses that may or may not be binding - not individual terms within. And we should probably avoid such determinations here if they can be avoided.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 14:39
  • @PhilSweet you may search on the term further, but I used legally-binding for regulations issued by US government federal agencies specifically. I am not referring to other entities that may issue regulations. Also, on the stackoverflow platform is forbidden to give legal advice. All posts are presumed for educational purposes only.
    – Full Array
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 19:09
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth it is how individuals who work in privacy, compliance, and legal fields tend to use it. I do not consider it idiomatic. i consider it technical language for a specific area in the privacy, compliance, and legal sectors.
    – Full Array
    Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 4:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.